The Saboteur Review for Xbox 360

On: Xbox 360PS3PC
The moody art style helps to give the game real atmosphere.
The moody art style helps to give the game real atmosphere.

The moody art style helps to give the game real atmosphere.

The Saboteur is a strange, hodge-podge mongrel of a game. It's got the open world and vehicle-nabbing of the GTA series, the free-flow climbing of Assassin's Creed, and the sneaky kill-em-from-behind action of any stealth game released over the past decade. It's also got lots of third-person gunplay, the light/heavy/kick attack setup of a roaming beat-em-up, and a system wherein you can inspire people to rise up against the Nazis - a mechanic that feels very similar to THQ's Red Faction: Guerrilla. All of these elements are handled in a solid if unspectacular fashion, and yet somehow The Saboteur is more than just the sum of its parts.

Surprisingly, the game's World War II setting is one of the main factors that ensures its overall success. By now you might think that this particular dead horse has been flogged into equine mush, and yet somehow The Saboteur shows that there's life in the old nag yet. Naturally it helps that we've never had an open world WW2 effort before, but it's still impressive how fresh it feels to go zipping around occupied Paris - swerving around the cobbled streets in a vintage motor and mowing down Ze Germans. However, the real saving grace is the way this environment is presented. When you're in an area where the Nazis are in total control, the game resembles a 1940's Sin City - moody black-and-white with the odd flourish of red; when you're in a neighbourhood where you've helped the Resistance to fight back, the city is brought to life in vibrant Technicolor. It all looks rather classy, and while the graphics certainly fall short of the standards set by GTA 4 and Assassin's Creed 2, they succeed in achieving a kind of stylish swagger.

Upon starting the game for the first time, you'll immediately be confronted by a big pair of naked, digital breasts (actually, this isn't quite true; there's an option to turn off the nudity - and on the 360 you'll need to download a free patch before you can see any "adult" content). On first impulse, I'm tempted to draw a direct comparison between these virtual mammaries and The Saboteur as a whole: they're both surprising, racy and designed with fun in mind - plus they both have an odd, not-quite-right quality that's occasionally quite distracting. However, with hindsight this observation is a little unfair. The naked cabaret that kicks off proceedings is really a statement of intent, a message that tells you that the following tale will be more concerned with having a good time than with documenting historical events. Yes, this is visibly Occupied Paris, replete with the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and other notable landmarks - but it's also an Occupied Paris where enormous Zeppelins glide through the skies, where half the populace drives a sports car, and where the German border is only a 20 minute drive away. In short, the whole shebang is larger than life (well, apart from the geography) - and this approach works just fine.

The Saboteur casts you as Sean Devlin - an Irish race car driver who joins the battle against the Nazis for personal reasons. Before the war Sean was on the cusp of a promising career, but all that was brought to an end by his dastardly arch-rival, Kurt Dierker - an Aryan wonder with Nazi connections. Without giving too much away, competition between the two men got badly out of hand, and one of Sean's friends ends up at the big racetrack in the sky. Sean joins the Resistance as part of a personal quest for vengeance. Devlin's character is loosely based upon a real-life war hero named William Grover-Williams - but like much of the rest the game, there's isn't much similarity between truth and fiction. Sean's character design milks every Irish cliché imaginable - he drinks and smokes a lot, swears like a trooper, and even says "top of the morning to you" from time to time - yet he's still a likeable front man, and you'll enjoy his colourful outbursts as he blows yet another Nazi to Kingdom come.

In terms of its structure, The Saboteur does little to buck the open-world conventions that have been followed ever since the release of GTA III. Quest markers pop-up on your map, revealing the location of an NPC who will dispense your next mission. You can stick to the core assignments and plough on with the story, or you can choose to explore one of the many side attractions. Even by the genre's own generous standards, there are a myriad of things to find and do - including hidden collectibles, optional side quests, cabaret shows and hidden gambling games. However, as we'll discuss in a moment, the two most important distractions both involve change - changes to the environment, and to Sean himself.

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15 Comments

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El-Dev's Avatar

El-Dev

It's not the greatest game in the world but it's a pretty good romp. Some of the dialogue is brilliant!
Posted 18:33 on 13 January 2010
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

It's not brilliant, true, but burlesque, good music and killing nazis automatically raises a game's score to at least a minimum of 7! Everything else is just gravy. ;)
Posted 13:12 on 13 January 2010
rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx@ El-Dev

Bad as Transformers 2?

YouTube Video
Posted 12:36 on 13 January 2010
El-Dev's Avatar

El-Dev

The voice acting in this game is terrible. Possibly some of the biggest stereotypes I've ever heard!
Posted 12:35 on 13 January 2010
clangod's Avatar

clangod

Yep, I'm sold. I'm disappointed to hear that it's visual polish is a bit lax. It appears to rely heavily on the Sin Cityesque transition of environments which in itself is very appealing. Gonna get this one for sure.
Posted 20:13 on 07 December 2009
jakeistheman's Avatar

jakeistheman

pandemic you will be missed. Great review might pick this up in January.
Posted 12:33 on 04 December 2009
Wido's Avatar

Wido@ mydeaddog

Indeed I suppose you are right about the missions and etc.

Cheers by the way :)
Posted 10:43 on 04 December 2009
mydeaddog's Avatar

mydeaddog

I think that it does get a tad repetitive to an extent, but I also think that's a common trait of open world games. GTA IV and Assassin's Creed games both feature lots of repetition, but the real question is whether you enjoy the core action or not. If you enjoy the core activities, it's less of an issue (in my opinion).

The Saboteur was a weird one to review; I liked it far more than I expected to. As the article says, it's far from a perfect game - and yet I somehow got rather caught up in it.
Posted 10:10 on 04 December 2009
Wido's Avatar

Wido

Sounds awesome! Great review Neon.

Question to you Neon.

Did you feel that the game was getting repetitive or is going to be repetitive over a period of time?
Posted 20:16 on 03 December 2009
pblive's Avatar

pblive

Nice review Neon. Might just get this when I can.
Posted 20:15 on 03 December 2009
GeNeCyDe1993's Avatar

GeNeCyDe1993

Hope to pick it up cheaper in a couple of weeks, good review Neon!
Posted 20:02 on 03 December 2009
Karlius's Avatar

Karlius

Great review Neon i'm expecting a major price drop on this game around a week before crimbo at an online retailer such as play I hope to pick it up then.
Posted 19:35 on 03 December 2009
rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx

Sounds really good esspecially when Neon mentions about it looking like a "1940's Sin City" with the jazz music of that time as well in the game (well 60's is close enough lol).
I find it odd that game makers are making their mainstream games more adult, I think Mass Effect started it all.
Well it's taken me longer than I expected to sort my flat out, so I still have Uncharted 2 and AC2 to play on.
I will have to get this in the new year but I'm looking forward to playing it going by this review.

BTW Great review Neon (As always)
Posted 17:28 on 03 December 2009
El-Dev's Avatar

El-Dev

More games should have characters called Devlin in them.
Posted 17:21 on 03 December 2009
thpcplayer's Avatar

thpcplayer

bye pandemic...........................
I am getting this for sure . Cant wait 4 tommorow
Posted 17:19 on 03 December 2009

Game Stats

Technical Specs
The Saboteur
8
Out of 10
The Saboteur
  • Lots to do
  • Varied gameplay
  • Good use of an interesting setting
  • Doesn't really excel at anything
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 04/12/2009
Platforms: Xbox 360 , PS3 , PC
Developer: Pandemic Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Stealth
No. Players: One
Rating: BBFC 15
Site Rank: 1,780
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